SE Innovation/iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — Earlier this week a judge found Baltimore police officer Edward Nero not guilty on four misdemeanor charges for his role in the events leading up the arrest and death of 25-year-oldFreddie Gray. Gray broke his neck while riding unsecured in the back of a police van in April 2015. His death ignited days of protests and riots in Baltimore, helping to fuel the national Black Lives Matter movement.
Nero was just one of six officers charged and is the first to receive a verdict. Five more officers will be tried in the coming weeks and months, including Officer William Porter, whose first trial ended with a hung jury.
Here’s Why Nero Was Found Not Guilty
“Based on the evidence presented, this Court finds that the State has not met its burden to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, all required elements of the crimes charged. Therefore, the verdict for each count is not guilty,” Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams said Monday.
Williams determined that prosecutors failed to prove their case against Nero. Williams said he could not find evidence that Nero was involved with detaining and arresting Gray, citing the testimony he heard from fellow Baltimore police officer Garrett Miller, who said he acted alone in handling Gray. Miller, who is also facing charges in Gray’s death and has pleaded not guilty, was granted immunity in Nero’s trial, so his testimony will not affect his impending trial. Moreover, the court said that Nero had “probable cause” to touch Gray and that any contact between the two men was “not unlawful and unwarranted.” Williams also found that it was not Nero’s responsibility to seat belt Gray.
The Baltimore Police Department said in a press release after the verdict that “although the criminal case against Officer Edward Nero has come to a close, the internal investigation has not. With that, Officer Nero’s status will remain unchanged. He will remain in an administrative capacity while this investigation continues. The internal investigation is being handled by other police departments. The internal investigation will not be completed until all of the criminal cases against the other five officers are completed because they will likely be witnesses in each case.”
Nero’s lawyer released a statement on Monday following the verdict. “His hope is that the State’s Attorney will reevaluate the remaining five Officer’s cases and dismiss their charges,” the statement read.
The next officer on trial is Caesar Goodson, who faces several charges, including second-degree depraved-heart murder. Goodson was behind the wheel of the police transport vehicle where prosecutors say Gray suffered his fatal spinal cord injury. Goodson, who is charged with the most serious crime of the six officers, will go on trial June 6. It is unclear whether he wants to be tried by a jury or by a judge.
Lt. Brian Rice is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment. He will go on trial July 5.
Officer Garrett Miller is charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. He will go on trial July 27.
Officer Porter has a trial date of Sept. 6, where he will be retried for involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment.
And finally, Sgt. Alicia White is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. She will go on trial Oct. 13.
These five officers have all pleaded not guilty.
Porter and White Take on the State’s Attorney
In a surprise move, Porter and White have both filed a lawsuit against Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state’s attorney, Maj. Sam Cogen of the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office and the state of Maryland for defamation and invasion of privacy. Both officers are facing involuntary manslaughter charges, and claim that Mosby and Cogen made false statements during a May 2, 2015, news conference when she first announced the charges.
The officers asked for the lawsuit to be sealed, but electronic court records show that motion was denied on Wednesday.
Rochelle Ritchie, communications director for Baltimore City State’s Attorney Office, told ABC News that “a gag order was issued in all matters related to Freddie Gray, so we will not be able to comment on the lawsuit.”
Major Sabrina Tapp-Harper, public information officer with the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office, said “we’re not commenting on this particular situation because of pending litigation.”
Legal experts say the lawsuit is a long-shot and will likely not be successful for the officers.
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